Alan Morrison's poetry first appeared in Don't Think of Tigers (The Do Not
Press, 2001) as a prize in the First Edition Competition 1998 run by the
Asham Literary Trust. He has published three chapbooks, Giving Light
(Waterloo Press, 2003), Clocking-in for the Witching Hour ('leaves little
doubt about Morrison's potential' - South) and Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever
(both Sixties Press, 2004). His play for voices, Picaresque ('a beautifully
clever, druggist parody of Under Milk Wood - Dada South; 'an ambitious
dreamlike play' - the Guardian) has been performed at venues including
The Poetry Cafe and the George Bernard Shaw Theatre, RADA, as well
as being broadcast last year on Resonance FM. His forthcoming volume,
The Mansion Gardens, is due out from Paula Brown Publishing and has
been nominated for the TS Eliot Prize, 2006.

The Glove Compartment

In the thrumming back of the car
my legs cramped by bagfuls of things
mother's stashed here for fear of swallowing,
I help her focus from the back seat,
her saner side, shut off with the powdered
glucose sweets in the glove compartment.
My eyes cast back to the bags at my feet.
She throws a panda-eyed stare
from the dark rear-view mirror.

Through the smudged windscreen my mock
composure shivers with leafless trees
twisting in the wind. Stark markers
for my probing on limits of time;
waning strength; deathly sky.
I'm lost in myself for grim minutes;
struggle to trace true bouts of substance
in outlines of thought-shaped clouds.


Day of returns and returning, re-
visiting overgrown rails of the mind
played as a tangible, metaphoric trip
to Bognor Regis, on rickety tracks
to difficult pasts, disguised in green-washed
terraces, sleepy, ghostly arcades,
a cramped museum of only two rooms
stuffed with Nineteen Forties' nostalgia,
animistic wireless sets, old record players
safely remote in chameleon cases,
cabinets filled with hiss and song,
mahogany mausoleums of ghost voices
caught for posterity on vinyl like
life-lines on the face; promising returns
to muffled yesteryears, take good care
of yourself, you belong to me
- just like
dust, stale cakes, saucer clatter of tea,
eternally-spiralling memory
caught in stylus-rut-tut of thought -
Dad taps into service days' airwaves
transported back to Signaller duties
tapping his name on the Morse-code machine,
last ditched attempt, unconsciously,
to communicate with his obsessive mouse-wife
cowering in a dark hole in the wainscoting.

Billeted at Barnham with baggage of years -
tortuous travelling to begin again
life's recurring evacuation
to flutters of breeze-leafed luggage tags,
tell-tale stickies of the soul -
the mighty distance lived, giant stones
of vast, towering things experienced,
time-manipulating milestones of minutes
morphing to trees, fields, hedges, clouds
in capitulation with the past,
pantomiming, re-performing moments
lost mostly in hope of non-remembering,
forgetfulness, vital blinkers
of present-seeking senses of cross-each-bridge-
as-you-come-to-it now; off-putter of tomorrow.

In the musty existing room of my parents,
crammed full with family mementos, books,
photographs, Styx's toll-fare tokens
or the hold of a Pharaoh's morbid tomb,
crouch Eden's forgotten descendants, once giants
now shrivelled into earthly, miniature size
like two toy-scale figures in a rented dolls' house
sandwiched between a struggling back garden
and windowed partition to the outside world -
ghosts haunting progress's tumbleweeding suburbs,
eyes seamed with crow's-feet, stitched under-shadows
stewed-tea grey; old-shoe-brown pupils
glistening tiredness, penetrating as nerves
jarred between contrapuntal cogs
of thought, strung out by crippling
preoccupations of the moment,
terror's cryptic puzzles, silent shouts
skirting-board-shrunk inversely in size
to towering effect; nerves' stretched piano wires
creaking lost chords, lost notes, lost times;
eyes strained as recycled tea-bags, marbled
as milk-swirling tea, or egg-whites
bubbling in a frying-pan shrapnelled with shell-
splinters; ancestral tut-tut of out
-of-kilter clock stuck forever at Six -
tea-time to starch-scented Edwardians -
illustrates to etiquetteless ear
what on some other plane struggles to be heard
in deafening, daytime, stuffy lounge silence,
dins of the taxidermist's inner-ear:
cork-creaking minutes, stone-scraping seconds -
Time is fed up, it's fretting, it's biting
its nails, until the next train comes.

Tea brings lapsed contentment, tings spirits
presently depleted to muster stimulation,
stir peculiarly back into being
like pink-striped Bagpuss in his sepia shop,
caffeine-revivified, resuscitated to
stammers of nerve-edged conversations,
verbal grabbling for mental distraction,
reiterated interests stale with taste-betraying
syllables, dull, insipid, yellowed eye
watery weak; drained; stewed; drunk on spurts
of recaptured happier times flitting
fuzzy as bulb-clunking moths;
suicidal daddy-long-thoughts birthed by lullabies
of a moment's beyond self-soothing rocks
of tense torsos, time-tripping sighs,
excruciating tocks.

Depending on mood my Dad's a Mad Hatter
postulating posterity's teatime scraps -
as the dirty armchairs draped in sun-blanched covers
darken to monoliths, immovable doubts
in unexpected thunder-gloom cast by a cloud,
he turns to Mock Turtle, too life-tired to cry;
my mother alternates between March Hare
and Dormouse, depending on the hold
of sudden grope of hope or insoluble obsession
in the dimly gas-lit dolls' house of her mind -
we take our places in listless mummery
of past thoughts, feelings, imprisoning meanings
breathing back to life through thawing of sighs,
interminably frequent tripping of time...
More dishwater tea? asks Dormouse Mother
of Mad Hatter father to teapot patter;
she yaffles affirmations, yawf... yawf... yawf,
nearest her mouth comes to forming yes
since aeons of negatives; rings tea-strained eyes;
lapses back to doubt-muttered sleepy-byes,
rinsed of all energies; timeless tea-party
tripping with lethargy, rusting gentility,
frozen forever at Six O' Clock,
stirring the stewed tea with my watch.

Angst-ridden glances grappling ungraspables -
tripped up by a thought's footstool -
go in circles round the centre table plinth
casting story spells like the pacing Bronte sisters -
a jaundiced tomato plant implores its luminous
green buds to blush red, red of our tied blood
binding us together in eternal trinity,
chains of pulsing rosary beads
itching to hatch from vinegared shells
like November conkers; domestic mysteries
probed, unsolved, self-defining; ruby
red of veins causing on wilderness-verged
tracks like spidering varicose trains.

Back to Front.